Daniel (36) was born in Amsterdam and comes from a long line of Amsterdam Jews. He studied History at the VU and has since been working in Software Sales.
Daniel comes from a Jewish family rooted in Amsterdam for 400 years. “I was born in Amsterdam, the place where more than ten generations of my family were born too,” Daniel begins. “Because of this long history, I am well acquainted with our family’s history and this city.”
His heritage from a Jewish family plays an important role in his life. As a Dutchman and an Amsterdammer, he is aware on a daily basis that he is Jewish, which influences the things that are important to him. “Family and friends are always paramount to me. I sometimes describe my hobbies as beer and bitterballen (a Dutch snack), tools to invest in this.”
Continuation of the Jewish Amsterdam lineage
Due to his background, Daniel feels a shared responsibility for the continuation of Jewish Netherlands. “Although I come from a long line of a large Jewish family, that family was largely decimated during the war and is not as large now,” he says. “I feel responsible for carrying on the Jewish name and the Jewish family. I would love to marry my girlfriend and raise the next generation together in Amsterdam.”
When I ask him if he prefers Amsterdam, New York, or Paris, he is determined. New York, a big city, a bit too American for him; Paris, the most beautiful city in the world, but he prefers Amsterdam. This is truly his city, where his roots lie, where he feels at home. “A lovely, civilized city, the place to which I am connected,” he says proudly.
As a child, Daniel attended the Jewish primary school Rosj Pina and then continued to Jewish secondary education at the Maimonides Lyceum, where he had a great time. “I would definitely send my children to a Jewish school too. It never really felt like I was in a bubble because I always had non-Jewish friends as well.” And he still does. “I’m fairly open about being Jewish, people are interested and have all sorts of questions. Those conversations are mostly positive,” he says.
After his History studies, Daniel discovered that Sales suited him better. He has been working in Software Sales for eight years now and describes the whole process as conveying a complex story in an easy way. Of course, you need to understand that story first. “What does the customer want, what does the company want, and how do you then put it on paper so that the interests of both parties are served? I find that a beautiful process,” he says. “I did help apply for subsidies for Chabad on Campus in the beginning, and the process is the same. How can you tell the story in a way that benefits both the grant provider and the organization as much as possible?”
Uniting forces in the Jewish community
During our interview, there is one subject that keeps coming up again and again: the importance of the continuation of Jewish Netherlands. And for Daniel, a crucial part of this is the community. “Before my student days, when I still lived at home, I attended the Jewish school and went to the synagogue in Amsterdam. My student life coincided with the start of Chabad on Campus in the Netherlands, and I was involved from the very first Friday night meal,” he shares. “Once your student life is over and you’re in a serious relationship, your needs change. But I will always remain involved with Chabad on Campus, because it plays a crucial role in the Jewish community, continuing Jewish life in the Netherlands and Amsterdam. A thriving Jewish community is vital for the survival of Jewish Netherlands.”
While the weekly gatherings are less significant for him in this phase of his life, Yanki remains not only his spiritual leader but also a close friend. “He’s always there for me and can help me when I need it.”
Daniel continues, “I believe that young people find their own way to stay connected to the community; it’s about what you make of it. If I want to feel a sense of belonging, I can attend synagogue more often, but the regular Jewish community doesn’t necessarily reach out to you.” He doesn’t see it as the established institutions’ task to actively attract people, since they already have their own role, which is maintaining the institution. However, he does mention that there should be better collaboration between Jewish communities: “Whether we’re Orthodox, Sephardic, liberal, or connected to Chabad, we’re all one. Each of us has our own community and our own way. Ideally, we should join forces more; we’re just so few.”
Undivided Support for Israel
As passionately as he speaks for a united Jewish Netherlands, he also advocates for unified support for Israel. “In my opinion, too much fuss is made about current political decisions that people may not agree with. That’s, after all, the flipside of a democratic process. It’s important to continue supporting Israel. After all, they will also be there for you one day!”
It turns out that Daniel is engaged in politics. He still has his doubts about the best choice in the upcoming parliamentary elections in November. “I won’t publicly express which party I would vote for, but developments like BBB or the New Social Contract party, Pieter Omtzigt’s new party, intrigue me. Even though I’m not sure if they have what it takes to form a good new government. It seems like there’s a need for a fresh perspective in the Dutch government.”
However, he doesn’t envision taking on that role for himself. “As a Jew, you’ll always face the accusation of having dual loyalty. That you’re not only focused on the interests of the Netherlands but also serve the interests of Israel,” he explains. “And honestly, if I were to hold a high political position, I would probably do that.”
Daniel continues, “Walther Rathenau (ed. 1867-1922) was a well-known Jewish industrialist and politician in Germany. After World War I, he was the Minister of Reconstruction and later the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Israel didn’t exist at that time, but Jews were distrusted for other reasons. He was a committed German and Jew, but he was only met with accusations of betraying the country and was ultimately assassinated by a Nazi. Uri Rosenthal was the Foreign Minister not too long ago. During a conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, he refused to support a joint EU stance. Even though he didn’t have overt pro-Israel views, he was accused of having a hidden agenda anyway.”
According to Daniel, being part of the political establishment isn’t suitable for Jews, as there will always be the accusation that you’re letting Israel’s interests influence your decisions. The only way to avoid that is to join a party that others have low expectations of. “We can provide excellent advisory roles, but we shouldn’t take a prominent role in politics,” he concludes.
What does Chabad on Campus mean to you?
Chabad on Campus means a lot to me. I attended the first Friday night meal organized by Yanki and Esty. I received a message from someone in the community about a new Rabbi in Amsterdam, and if I wanted to join for a Friday night dinner. We talked until late into the night, and from that moment on, I built a deep friendship with Yanki and Esty. We are the same age, come from the same background, and share many interests. But Yanki is much more than that; he’s the Rabbi who’s always available to me.
As an organization, I dare say that Chabad on Campus is a significant driving force in securing the future of Jewish Netherlands. Traditional synagogues are rarely attended by my generation. Nevertheless, there’s a need within this group for a certain sense of Jewish community. A sense of community that’s essential for the survival of our people. Yanki and Esty address this need by bringing thousands of people together through their meals and events.
The energy that Yanki and Esty invest is truly remarkable. They want to bring as many people together as possible and add people to the community. The more Jews have contact with each other, the more important it is for people in the local community. The success of Chabad on Campus in the Netherlands is due to the events they organize and the people who attend, who wouldn’t otherwise come together. This helps ensure the future of Jewish Netherlands.
What I find beautiful is that Yanki and Esty respect that you don’t necessarily adopt all of their religious practices. They give you the freedom to find your own path. I also see how they interact with others who were raised with less religious background than me. That is also their role in the community. Through their pastoral work, they are a listening ear for those who need them.
Chabad on Campus consists of a wide variety of people. In this section, we’d like to set the spotlights on different person from our community each time. Check our other spotlights!